Absolutism and Consitutionalism

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The seventeenth century marked a turning point for absolutism in Western Europe. The earlier part of the century was spent battling religious wars known today as the Thirty Years’ War, which spanned from 1618-1648. Cardinal Richelieu, first minister to King Louis XIII, was able to uphold absolute authority over France during the war. Unlike Richelieu, King Charles I of England was not as successful and struggled with his parliament. While France continued to thrive under this absolute monarchy, England slowly began to transition towards constitutionalism. The fear of population growth within religious groups initiated a very long war throughout Europe, primarily throughout modern day Germany. The Thirty Years’ War, which began in 1618, can be broken down into four phases. The first phase began in Bohemia between the Catholic League and the Protestant Union. The Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II was determined to eliminate Protestants from Bohemia, causing them to rebel against the Catholics. The Protestants were unsuccessful and were defeated in 1620 at the battle of the White Mountain. Subsequently, King Christian IV of Denmark combined forces with England and France in defense of the Protestants. His allied force invaded Germany during the second phase of the war, but was defeated twice in 1626, at the battle of Dessau Bridge and the battle of Lutter. The Treaty of Lubeck, signed in 1629, dissolved the relationship between the Danish and the Protestants, ending the second phase of the war. In fear of growing power within the Catholic Habsburgs, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took matters into his own hands, initiating the third phase. He defeated the Catholics at the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 and died duri... ... middle of paper ... ... France and Parliament concluded that his departure was a relinquishment of the thrown. Parliament then invited Mary to become Queen of England and she accepted with the stipulation that William of Orange would also be King. This brief series of events ended in 1689 with little bloodshed and began the necessary changes towards Constitutionalism, thus considered to be the Glorious Revolution. After the Glorious Revolution, Parliament formed the English Bill of Rights, marking the end of Absolute Monarchy. The Bill of Rights set limitations on the authority of the crown and outlined the rights of Parliament. It allowed for freedom of speech, voting to administrative positions, and gave Parliament the right to appeal the ruler’s decisions. John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government had a tremendous influence on the creation of the English Bill of Rights.

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